The New York Times Breaks Up With John McCain

Dear John, The New York Times would like to endorse John McCain. And all of his affairs, scandals and conflicts of interest. They are totally breaking up.

What a difference a few weeks makes in a political love triangle. Before Super Tuesday, the NYT was smitten, relatively speaking, with moderate maverick McCain when endorsing him as the Republican nominee, saying “…there is a choice to be made, and it is an easy one.” He “…has demonstrated that he has the character to stand on principle” as a “genuine war hero.”

Today, with the allegations ranging from romantic impropriety to influence-peddling in his relationship with telecommunications lobbyist Vicki Iseman during his 2000 presidential campaign, he’s a man whose “…confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest,” who relies on corporate lobbyists in his campaign and an “essentially honorable person,å” who can be “imprudent,” according to The Times’ quotes attributed to William P. Cheshire, the editorial page editor of The Arizona Republic.

The paper zips through a laundry list of past transgressions; McCain’s involvement with the Lincoln Savings and Loan “Keating Five” scandal in 1989 gets major play, as do a slew of private plane trips and votes in the powerful Senate commerce committee.

Quoting the statements of an anonymous former campaign advisor, statements that Iseman’s firm, Alcalde & Fay, calls “the fantasies a disgruntled former employee,” the NYT reports that McCain’s staffers became worried that Iseman had excessive access to the senator, access that might be or might appear untoward, and voiced their concerns to McCain. The sources cited in the article say that McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and vowed to keep away from Iseman in the future.

McCain himself denied the involvement was romantic or that he acted in any way that besmirched his office. In televised press conferences today, McCain said that he gave no preferential treatment to Iseman, nor did he attempt to squash the story or even speak to the paper on the subject. "Since it was in The New York Times, I don't take it at face value," he said, gettin’ sassy.

The break-up may have been a long time coming. Current advisors to McCain said they learned that the story was being prepared as early as October, and question why the news broke only today. “We think the story speaks for itself,” said Executive Editor Bill Keller in a written statement. “On the timing, our policy is, we publish stories when they are ready.” And like the best of spats, this one may brood for a while to come. Commenting on CNN, Candy Crowley admitted that journos were looking forward to more play from the allegations, noting that this story “has legs.” No word on whether they are nicely shaped, newsworthy legs that voters would be crazy not to follow.

The New York Times has variously been referred to as the Gray Lady for its traditionally staid artistry and style. One thing’s certain about this lady: she may be old, but she’s still got some fire. Maybe today was her ultimate Dear John letter to John. - Joe Horton

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